Think Versus Feel: Understanding the Difference in Market Research

With the school year winding down my two high-school-aged teenagers are tasked with course selection for next year. Recent conversations at the dinner table have become an opportunity to learn more about their interests and certain jobs that they’re curious about. The other night, my son, with a rather quizzical look on his face, asked me, “What do you do, again?” It’s funny how having to explain your job, and why you do it, in terms that a teen would understand, makes you think hard about the answer.

With that in mind, this blog entry is rather self-indulgent as well as straightforward, as I share my thoughts about why I’ve always been interested in the many facets of marketing. My educational journey began in psychology and sociology with a move into education. My introduction to marketing was through News Marketing, a subsidiary of News Corp, where I started my first role in media sales selling in-store advertising space to grocery stores and pharmacies. The products included coupon machines, shelf signage, and floor graphics. We also had the SmartSource Magazine, a coupon flyer strategically placed in weekly newspapers. You can imagine my son’s face while I was telling him all this. I’m sure I lost him at “coupon machines”.

My fascination with marketing, and specifically my experience in advertising and market research, is closely tied to my interest in psychology, and understanding consumer behavior. When I am conducting interviews, often the words “think” and “feel” are used interchangeably by interviewees to express opinions, beliefs, and emotions. For example, “I feel this is a good product to meet my team’s needs” when they mean, “I think this is a good product to meet my team’s needs”. In market research, the goal is to understand not only what consumers think about a product or service but also how they feel about it emotionally. Researchers must make the distinction and separate thoughts and feelings to better inform product development and customer experience enhancements.

Thoughts range from negative to positive perceptions around a company’s brand or competence and commitment to customer satisfaction. Customers may have doubts about service quality and delivery and be in a place where they are re-evaluating their company loyalty. Some may be making comparisons with competitors as they are considering switching companies. Consistent high-quality service is essential to maintain positive perceptions and foster loyalty.

Feelings also range from positive to negative, such as anticipation around the release of a new product or higher-level satisfaction from a more personalized style of account management. In contrast, frustration or disappointment comes through when customers experience poor service, such as a lack of resolution to their issues which are often tied to the perception that their time or concerns are not prioritized or valued. Managing expectations at the outset of the relationship is key to building trust and avoiding letting customers down. Further, customers who do have a negative experience are more likely to share their feelings impacting a company’s reputation. In severe instances, stress and anxiety can arise from ongoing unresolved issues and uncertainty about the outcome with personal implications being a main concern.

The phrase “Customers can forget what you said or even did, but they will never forget how you made them feel” is a variation of a widely recognized quote attributed to the American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. The original quote is: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I explained to my kids in these very simple “think versus feel” terms that market research and psychology—the study of human behavior are closely intertwined.

Ideba uses a variety of research methods, both quantitative and qualitative, including surveys and in-depth one-on-one interviews to help uncover consumer motivations, perceptions, and feelings, providing valuable insights. Please reach out if you have any questions about the interesting and rewarding work that we do.

Tamara Clarke – Research Manager